PITTSBURG — Ron’s Supermarket is celebrating a big anniversary week in a big way.
The store officially opened 40 years ago on Monday, and launched online grocery ordering this week with its Wednesday ad.
“We kick it off today — you can go online and order groceries,” said Ron Rhodes, who co-owns the store with his wife, Barbara Rhodes. “You can pull your order have it totaled up and all you have to do is pull up and pay. We had felt for a long time that a lot of people would like to have the opportunity to place the order on the Internet, have us pick the order up and have it ready for them to pick it up at a specific time or whenever they wanted to pick it up.”
This and other innovations along the way have helped Ron’s continue forward and thrive in an industry that has seen its share of changes throughout the decades.
“An awful lot has happened in the past 40 years in the grocery business,” Rhodes said. “A lot of the things we sell today were not available.”
Rhodes originally moved to Pittsburg to attend school at Pittsburg State University, where he met his wife. After spending time in Maryland for ROTC, the couple returned to Pittsburg and Rhodes began working for his in-laws’ grocery store, where he discovered he enjoyed the grocery business and the interaction with customers.
A few years later, on Jan. 4, 1976, he opened his own store on North Rouse in Pittsburg.
“It was a very small neighborhood store, and that’s how we got started,” Rhodes said.
The store operated in that location until a move to Meadowbrook Mall in 1983. The current location opened nearly 20 years ago, in 1996, and has been thoroughly renovated in recent years.
Along the way, two of the Rhodes’ sons joined the family enterprise, with Drew Rhodes working as General Manager and in charge of operations at the family’s Branson store and Tim Rhodes working as General Manager of Wichita operations. Tim’s wife, Sam, also is a manager at the store.
“My wife and I have been doing this for 40 years together, and one of the reasons we’ve been successful and one of the reasons we’ve endured longer than other businesses is it’s been a true partnership with my wife and I working together every day,” Rhodes said.
The store has faced challenges along the way, as do many family-owned businesses, but Rhodes said the rewards far outweigh the challenges, particularly when it comes to people and relationships.
“Many of our customers, we’ll see first, second, third and some fourth generations shopping with us,” he said.
Additionally, the store employees 104 people, many of whom have been there for more than 30 years, and others who are second-generation.
Rhodes said innovations along the way keep people coming back, including partnering with Alliance Marketing to lower prices on hundreds of items, changing its coolers to offer a more quality product, courtesy desk services including doing business for the U.S. Post Office, the addition of gluten-free and other specialty foods and more, leading up to Wednesday’s announcement.
“The Web-based ordering is going to be big,” Rhodes said.
He said the goal is to scale it all the way to online ordering and grocery delivery, but incrementally, to make sure each step is done correctly.
Initially, staff will work on pulling and packing orders placed via www.ronssupermarket.com.
Rhodes said the site offers a number of ways to shop, including clicking through the weekly ad, shopping for items on a list or searching for items in a browser. The running total will show on the site (with prices for produce and meats varying slightly based on exact weights of items versus approximate weight ordered), and Ron’s card information can be input to secure discounts.
Rhodes said once customer satisfaction is secured with online ordering and the order volumes level out the staff will consider adding delivery.
“There’s always something new we’re looking at down the road,” he said.